Two putative human oligodendroglioma cell lines were examined for the expression of the oligodendrocyte-associated genes, 2′,3′-cyclic nucleotide-3′-phosphodiesterase, myelin basic protein, myelin proteolipid proteins, and myelin-associated glycoprotein. The expression of these genes also was examined in control astrocytoma and neuroblastoma cell lines. In addition, the expression of the non-oligodendrocyte-specific genes, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), neuron-specific enolase and neurofilaments (NF) NF-L and NF-M also were examined. All the cell lines expressed 2′,3′-cyclic nucleotide 3′-phosphodiesterase, neuron-specific enolase, and vimentin, and none expressed myelin-associated glycoprotein. The “oligodendrocyte-specific” myelin proteolipid protein mRNAs and the “neuron-specific” NF-L mRNA were expressed in the two astrocytoma cell lines, which also expressed GFAP. Expression of intermediate filament protein genes was more restricted. The astrocytoma, neuroblastoma, and oligodendroglioma cell lines expressed only GFAP, NF-M, and cytokeratin K7, respectively. These results: (a) provide molecular data confirming the classification of the two cell lines as oligodendrogliomal and suggest that their molecular profiles are indicative of immature oligodendrocytes; (b) demonstrate the expression of cytokeratins in oligodendrogliomal cell lines and suggest that apparent GFAP expression in oligodendrogliomas detected by immunocytochemical methods may be due to cross-reactivity with cytokeratins, with which they share common polypeptide sequence; and (c) indicate that astrocytoma cell lines can exhibit a “mixed” phenotype, expressing genes associated with fully differentiated oligodendrocytes and neurons.

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This research was supported by NIH Grants NS23022 (A. T. C.), NS23322 (A. T. C.), NS26312 (H. V. V.), and HD25831 (A. T. C., J. E. M.) and National Multiple Sclerosis Society Grants PP0127 (J. E. M.), RG2233-A-1 (A. T. C.), and RG2319-A-6 (J. E. M.).

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